There’s the Rub: Your Wheel Needs a Little Friction

Amy Tyler’s new Spinning Wheel Mechanics course explains the science of friction and the delicate balance of creating friction where we need it and reducing friction where we don’t.

Kate Larson Jan 13, 2023 - 3 min read

There’s the Rub: Your Wheel Needs a Little Friction Primary Image

Amy Tyler explains why friction is vital between the drive band and pulleys. Photos from “Spinning Wheel Mechanics with Amy Tyler”

Friction lies at the root of so many spinning conundrums. When we first start using a spinning wheel, we learn that if the flyer isn’t spinning when we treadle, try adjusting the drive-band tension knob. As advanced spinners, we might have a toolbox full of different drive-band materials so we can choose just the right one for a specific wheel and project. As we spin, we are constantly making adjustments to create friction in some places and reduce friction in others.

I really enjoyed Amy Tyler’s discussion about friction in this excerpt from her new Spinning Wheel Mechanics course. As ever, Amy makes something that is quite complex feel accessible and easily applied to what we experience every time we place our feet on the treadles.

One of Amy’s examples of where we want friction is between the drive band and the drive wheel. If the drive band is slipping, your wheel will—at best—be less efficient in producing twist and—at worst—not produce enough twist to create yarn. What makes spinning so interesting (or frustrating, depending on the day) is that the lesson isn’t to just make the drive band as tight as possible because that would also make treadling difficult. Unless you have a stretchy drive band. And if it is a stretchy drive band, is it smooth or is it grippy? When did you last replace that drive band? Someone online said to apply beeswax; is that a thing?

Amy demonstrates another place on your wheel where you want friction, and that’s between the drive band and the drive wheel.

It depends.

What makes learning to spin challenging is that there are so many variables at play between spinner, wheel, fiber, and frankly, even the weather. That’s why learning the mechanics of spinning and our equipment is essential. It empowers us to solve our own problems and answer our own questions. Amy lays out the fundamentals in this course, and I can’t wait to see how you put them to use!


The full series is available now for purchase. If you are a current Spin Off All Access or LTM All Access subscriber, this video is included in your plan. Find it here!

Kate Larson is the editor of Spin Off and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.